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October 1998

Tornado Electronics Messaging System

Tornado Development
1201 Morningside Drive, Suite 100
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Ph.: 310-546-6319
Fx.: 310-546-6817
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.tems.com

Price: Usage-based.

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Ratings (0-5)
Installation: 5
Documentation: 4
Features: 4
GUI: 3
Operational Testing: 4
Overall: B

Tornado Development's Tornado Electronic Messaging System (TEMS) is a Java-based pay-per-use unified messaging service designed for road warriors, SOHO employees, and anyone who needs to receive and reply to personalized and private voice mail, e-mail, faxes, and pages from a remote location. The billing options are mostly a la carte, so the monthly and annual fees quickly accumulate, but the conveniences offered -- like computer-- and telephone-based inbox functionality, toll-free DID numbers, POP mail integration, and international IP-based messaging -- quickly compensate and surpass the costs involved.

The TEMS is optimized for Netscape 3.04 (or later) or Microsoft Internet Explorer, version 4.0 (or later). After users complete an order form at www.tems.com/signup/signup.html, they'll be mailed a wallet-sized reference card containing their user name, password, TEMS access telephone number (or optional DID number), and a customer service telephone number. Users may also elect to download a Java client to each PC they use: Downloading the Java client each time you want to use it saves hard disk space but wastes time. Alternatively, users can avoid the Java client entirely and opt for the thinner HTML "express" client or they can use any SMTP, MAPI, or POP3 compatible client. Users can also check, reply to, forward, and fax messages from a telephone, so it's a good idea to program your TEMS access telephone number into your speed dial for work, home, and portable telephones.

There is a user's guide at www.tems.com/usersguide/users.html which users can search, view, download, or print (in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat format). The guide is comprehensive, well written, and clean, but there are no screen shots. We consider the reference card a kind of documentation, but it's more of a feature. In general, the HTML and Java GUIs both seem intuitive, probably because we've all been using messaging software for years. For a CTI product like a messaging service, the documents aren't as important as the look and feel and user-friendliness, all areas where TEMS is doing a good job.

Now for the real features. Our two favorites are the TEMS personalized, flat-rate telephone numbers, which are available in normal DID and toll-free DID versions, and TEMS' worldwide network of interconnected fax servers, which can reduce the fax charges on your itemized bill. For example, having a personal telephone number (especially of the toll-free variety) is great for frequent travelers, SOHO proprietors, and office workers, any of whom may not have, cannot afford, or are unable to rely on a sophisticated unified messaging application. The TEMS worldwide fax servers are equally valuable. TEMS charges 15 cents for a local fax and $1 for an international fax, but if one of their gateways happens to be in the same country as the international location that you are calling, TEMS will automatically route the fax over the Internet to the local gateway and then on to the recipient. You pay only for the "local" portion of the fax call that is sent over the PSTN.

Although those features may be the "coolest," the most impressive feature of TEMS is its Java message client. Originally developed back when Java was in version .9 (Java is now in release 1.x), the "TEMS Messenger" automatically logs into the most recent applet version, and like any Java applet, works on numerous hardware platforms and under various operating systems. The single inbox displays e-mail, voice mail, faxes, and attachments. Messages can also be sent as pages. There is a drag-and-drop interface, the TEMS Scheduler (a rules-based application to handle specific incoming and outgoing messages), and nested folders and message sorting based on sender, subject, priority, and time stamp. Other Messenger features include an address book, group sending, options to purchase additional storage, optional first-in/first-out (FIFO) message handling (as well as automatic deletion or storage space addition activated at a preset capacity), and POP3 integration.

We think that many users will ultimately view TEMS as a local inbox from the road. With a toll-free DID number, we would set our regular inbox to auto-forward when we are away, but then the issue is whether TEMS costs more than an ISP with national or toll-free access numbers. Maybe it doesn't matter - even if the national or toll-free ISP were cheaper, despite the promise of IP telephony, most ISPs do not yet offer fax services, and they certainly won't manage your voice mail and send pages. Our only criticisms are the system's speed, the look of the HTML GUI (we feel the Java GUI is better designed), the lack of a "deluxe" pricing option that would provide all options for a flat monthly rate, and improved documentation.

A service like TEMS is a very clever offering and a unique application of CTI for actual users. Tornado Development's success depends primarily on usability, an area that includes the subsets of speed, design, and price. In these areas, TEMS has work to do, but in raw functionality, TEMS is already a success. Still, like other CTI products, we're looking forward to seeing vast improvements in the next release, once it's been out for a while.


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